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Background and History of Wireless LAN for Lingnan University


Since September 2003, Lingnan University has launched its 1st Generation of Wireless LAN (WLAN) to support our staff and students' need for enhancement in teaching, researching & learning. Staff and students are required to register the MAC address of their computer device before using the Wireless LAN. Because of the resource constraint, the access points for the WLAN are limited to main campus areas only which implies the mobility for the WLAN usage are also limited. As the WLAN expands, Information Technology Services Centre (ITSC) installed and extended the WLAN coverage to the Hostel building in Oct 2006.

However, the 1st Generation WLAN registration is never easy for the staff and students to get use of the wireless network as it is a time consuming process. To shorten the user authentication and further improve the convenience of the WLAN usage, ITSC introduced the 2nd Generation of WLAN which uses captive portal method for the user authentication and WLAN establishment in March 2007. The use of the captive portal provided a user friendly system and eliminated the need of the MAC registration and users are required no extra settings on their client computers.

As technology grows, bandwidth and security has greatly leveraged and continued to emerge. The mission of ITSC strives to provide state-of-the-art Information Technology (IT) support and beneficiaries for Lingnan University and therefore foresee the needs of the campus wide wireless communication development. As a result, the department has submitted a proposal to extend and re-construct its wireless infrastructure through UGC's Alterations, Additions, Repairs and Improvements (AA&I) grant application. Details of the development are as follow.

To promote the studies and research works at university as well as to interface with the Government WiFi program to provide free wireless Internet access services to all citizens by installing WiFi facilities at designated government premises, Lingnan University proposed an AA&I project -¡§Installation of WiFi Infrastructure for Lingnan University which aims to provide full coverage of WiFi network on the campus in year 2007-08. By setting up the campus wide WiFi network, it is anticipated that the students and faculties can easily extend their studies and social activities in anywhere and at anytime.

The campus wide WiFi provides a cost effective solution to enhance the network coverage yet unreachable by wired networks. For example, it is difficult to get wired infrastructure out to remote areas of the university such as the Student Activities  Centre (SAC) or Wing On Plaza, where a lot of sporting events held from time to time. The setup of wireless network in those locations will improve the communication channels in a cost effective way.

It cannot be denied that the mobility is the important reason for the university to initiate the campus wide WiFi project. Before the project implementation, students are crowded in the Library and computer laboratories whenever they want Internet access. The high speed communication WiFi network revamps their school life and provides a pleasant learning workspace for them. It allows teaching, learning, and research activities, as well as distance learning and remote discussion being conducted at canteen, late study room, the Library, green spaces and common areas at all time. It also provides a straightforward network registration and authentication with enough capacity to ensure secure, fast and extensive coverage.

The goal posts with providing coverage are always moving as new applications and devices launch with WiFi. Phase one is to offer full building and campus coverage (for details, please refer to the WiFi Coverage) including the indoor Sports Complex, lecture theatres, the Auditorium, canteen and the outdoor soccer pitch (SAC). It is targeted to cover 80% of the campus area by 4th Aug 2008 for the network access and supported different mobile devices such as laptops (for details, please refer to WiFi supported Operating Systems and Devices). For phase two WiFi development, it is targeted to cover most of the campus and upgrade the system to support mobile IP phone technology by the end of August 2008.


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